24 Mar 2018

Making bacon without nitrites

From This Way Up, 12:15 pm on 24 March 2018

Most of the bacon we eat is cured and processed using sodium nitrite, which the World Health Organisation has linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

And according to food journalist  Bee Wilson the meat industry has been concealing the real dangers of eating processed meats for decades.

Wilson points out it's possible to preserve meat using other chemicals - such as Parma ham producers in Italy who removed all nitrites from their products in the 1990s.

New Zealand producers are also curing bacon without nitrites and some, like Hendersons in Glenfield, have been doing so for 25 years.

Hendersons’ sales of nitrite-free bacon have doubled over the past few years, the company says. Most of its bacon is made from imported pork from Spain but the pork for its Free Range Bacon is locally produced.

Another big seller is Kiwi Bacon, a brand owned by Hellers, which says its nitrite free bacon is made from New Zealand-reared pork.

Many other smaller scale enterprises produce nitrite free bacon, and the best way to find them is either to ask your local butcher or search them out online. 

Daniel Todd of Woody's Free Range Farm in Levin makes bacon both with and without nitrites from pork raised just up the road.

His nitrite-free bacon is cured with uses salt sugar sage and pepper. The salt draws out moisture, so the product is getting lighter as it cures.

The process isn’t complicated, he says, though it does take longer.

For large manufacturers, changing over to nitrite free bacon would mean down time and costs as they converted the systems.